Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things. ~Saki
Pikelets are a bit of an institution round here, especially for morning or afternoon tea. For those of you not in the know, pikelets are like fluffy little pancakes – very tasty with a cup of tea and a neighbourly chat.
Yesterday our good friend Geoff came to visit. Round here, we all refer to him as ‘Timber Cutter’. He’s an old, old man now, with big gnarled hands and still-strong arms (although his skin has thinned and he’s always got a bit of bark off), and he remains a demon with a chainsaw. He can fell anything, quickly, safely and accurately.
Over the years he has logged up and down the north coast of New South Wales, and he knows this country and its seasons like no-one else I’ve ever met. Geoff’s not a well-educated man, education was a luxury when he was growing up, but his manners and values are old-school and he is one of life’s true gentlemen. He has an enquiring mind, and keen observation skills. He thinks deeply, and speaks after much consideration. When he speaks it’s generally worth listening to. These days he doesn’t do much felling. He’s replaced that with talking. I think he’s making up for all that time when he was out in the bush on his own, or too busy for idle chatter. Oh man, Timber Cutter can talk. But we never complain. We just fill up the teapot with a good strong brew, go out onto the shady verandah, keep the tasty treats coming, and sit around listening to his many tales. Pikelets are his favourite, and I always make enough for him to take some home. I use my Nana’s recipe. The following recipe will serve four, but I always double it!
Ingredients: 1 cup self raising flour (for my American friends, you can make self raising flour by adding 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to one cup of all purpose cake flour),1 large egg, 1/2 cup of milk,1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of melted butter or 1 tablespoon of cream, extra butter for your skillet/frypan.
*Note – these work just as well with commercial gluten-free flour. I also like making them with 1/2 cup rice flour and 1/2 cup buckwheat flour and two teaspoons baking powder for my gluten-free friends. Spelt flour, while not gluten-free, is also great!
Method: Add the vinegar or lemon juice to the milk to sour it, and set aside. (Nana always made her pikelet batter by hand but if you want, you can mix this with an electric beater!)
Sift the flour and sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Whisk the egg and pour into the centre of the well. Then add a little milk. Using a wooden spoon gradually beat the mixture from the centre, slowly incorporating more of the dry ingredients. Keep adding a little more milk until the mixture is combined and has a thick, creamy consistency. Add in your butter or cream and stir again until combined. Let the batter sit for ten minutes to thicken further.
Heat a heavy based skillet or frypan and grease lightly. Place spoonfuls of mixture, well spaced onto the hot surface. When they begin to show large bubbles on the surface, turn them over.
Pikelets are delicious served with butter and jam, jam and cream, or butter and golden syrup. My Pa also liked his with a thick smear of butter, sprinkled with sugar, and then doused in lemon juice. They are great as a lunchbox snack and it’s easy to add variations to the batter. Some of my favourites include:
- Stewed apple chunks and a dusting of cinnamon
- fresh blueberries and a little lemon zest
- date pieces and a shake or two of powdered ginger
- mashed up ripe banana
While we munched away and sipped our tea, Timber Cutter regaled us with stories of the Frost of ’54, which came in November (nearly Summer in Australia) and decimated the lucerne and potato crops, timber-getting at the back of Kyogle in the 1950’s, and tales of growing up in a time where more people had a horse and cart than a car. We laughed and cried over crazy stories and tales of tragedy. Then we went for a walk around the paddocks, looking for koalas and watching the birds.
All in all it was a very satisfying afternoon of yarns, friendship and a shared table.